Superstition? Fashion Statement? Or Silly Necklace?

In 1982 Yoshihiro Hirata, an alternative medicine

practitioner, founded Phiten, the company that sells his titanium-infused

products. The necklaces first gained prominence in Japan, where they are still

popular with many athletes. According to the company, the necklaces and

bracelets work by stabilizing the electric flow that nerves use to communicate

actions to the body. "All of the messages in your body travel through

electricity, so if you're tired or just pitched nine innings, the

electricity isn't flowing as smoothly as it can," said Joe Furuhata, a Phiten

spokesman. "Our products smooth out those signals." These necklaces are designed

to relieve stress, increase blood circulation and relax your muscle tension? Phiten

claims that its necklaces, bracelets, and titanium-infused clothing produce an

electrical charge that relieves pain, increases energy, and speeds recovery. Actually, the necklaces are more of a

phenomenon than a secret in sports circles, even though there is no independent

research to back up the company's claim of medical benefits.

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While many sports stars believe the necklaces give them

luck, not everyone is convinced. Many doctors and scientists say there is no

scientific evidence supporting Phiten's theory. "There's no science and

physiology," said Dr. Orrin Sherman, chief of sports medicine at the New York

University Hospital for Joint Diseases. "There's just no way the chemical

structure of the body can be influenced by magnets that small. It's all

superstitions with no scientific basis."

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Sherman also noted that when people interact with magnets

far more powerful than the Phiten necklaces, like the magnets in a CT

(computerized tomography) scan machine, for instance, they do not report

any of the effects pitchers and quarterbacks say they receive from the

necklace. But while the physiology behind the necklaces doesn't hold up to

scientific scrutiny, that doesn't mean they do not help. Athletes are a

superstitious lot.

Craig Biggio, didn't wash his batting helmet for an entire

season. Uh...yuck.

Wade Boggs would only eat chicken before games.

Athletes love all manners of hokum and voodoo. If the

players think they are getting an advantage from the necklace and that gives

them increased confidence, then they do in fact get a positive boost from the


Phiten necklaces have been

around for a little while, but are encountering increased publicity. If you've

watched a baseball game, especially one with the Red Sox (yuck again) in the

last year, you've probably seen the utilitarian jewelry around the neck of the


The necklaces, which sell from around $25 to $40, have

become so popular that you can now get them in a variety of colors and themes

including the one I just ordered to swim with-Hello Kitty.

In the U.S. the necklaces are mostly associated with

athletes, but that's not the case in Japan and other parts of Asia where they

were first introduced by the company a decade ago.

So how can a product with almost no research to back up its

health claims become so popular? Well Phiten provides a scientific explanation for how its products work

adds to the appeal. According to

their web site, the necklace core features "micro sized titanium spheres,

as well as carbonized titanium" designed to "stabilize the flow of

electric current and increase your body's energy level."

Sounds good, huh?

If you think so then after you purchase a Phiten necklace I

encourage you to also purchase a book called Believing in Magic: The

Psychology of Superstition

I read it while wearing my Hello Kitty necklace and it's quite an enjoyable read.

What do you think?